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Frank Morris
Frank Morris. 26 April 2023

Vale: Barry Humphries … he was a supreme entertainer

 

Barry Humphries, 89, died last Saturday in hospital. Humphries was treated for various health issues. One newspaper describes him as an “original and outrageous entertainer.” Humphries family have been offered a public memorial service in Victoria.

Dame Edna Everage was one depression-era ‘lady’ whose life started off as a housewife and became a superstar literally overnight.  “She was brash and confident and a host of her own television chat show around the world” says a biography.

From the moment Edna stepped on the stage you first realised that this lady with the whining voice, the blue rinse hairdo and the butterfly-shaped glasses was destined to take the world by storm.

And she gradually did.

In fact, she eventually became known the world over as “housewife, mother and superstar.”
 

SPECIAL FEATURE 

Main: The Dame. 
 

But thanks to the multi-talented author, songwriter, entertainer, scholar and actor Barry Humphries the equal multi-talented Dame Edna Everage made her first appearance in 1955. 

Humphries was born in Melbourne in 1934 and educated at Melbourne Grammar School and Melbourne University.

Not long after completing his education in Australia, he set out to try his luck in London. As it turned out they both had something to offer each other. He later became a member of both United Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Notwithstanding his association with these august institutions of learning, Humphries antipodean-ness clinged to him. 
 

Barry Humphries … he’s master-minded the other ‘characters’.
 

“Humphries is a person of exquisite cultivation despite his Australian origins,” opined a biographical profile on him several years ago. London’s other institution, The Times, once declared that since the demise of Maria Callas that he is the “greatest star alive” after its review of one of the University’s popular stage shows.

“And hundreds of people agreed with this,” the Times said.

While he has left stage and television bedazzled over the years, there are still those people who dislike Humphries’ work.

But, according to the profile, “they find him very nice on personal acquaintance, should he grant them this intimacy.”

When he arrived back in Australia, he was to perform at university revues, stage and so on. In 1959, he went to England and appeared as Fagin in the stage presentation of Oliver. He returned in 1962 with a solo show, A Nice Night’s Entertainment.

“The show featured such characters as Edna Everage, Sandy Stone and Les Patterson which were familiar to Australian and British audiences,” said a biography.

The 1972 film, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, was followed by the sequel, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own in which Prime Minister Whitlam made Edna a Dame. Both films repulsed critics and delighted audiences.
 

Barry Humphries, Dame Edna and Les Patterson.
 

From 1982, he  was occupied in a broad range of entertainment: stage, film making, appearing as Dame Edna and other characters and work on his autobiography.

Her / his autobiography, Housewife Superstar, was launched in the US. Humphries describes the move as “unique … everything turns out just rosy!”

Edna / Barry’s tips for a happy marriage were to “choose carefully; when it comes to food, be imaginative, original and appreciative; don’t gossip about your partner’s failings; be honest with each other - but not brutal.”

Humphries was married four times.

In the early 2000s, the Dame was calling it a night; or thought she was.

Her spectacles glitter and her tongue is wickedly sharp as ever, Dame Edna set out on her farewell tour. I wrote at the time that, “it’s hard to believe that it is happening after more than five decades of “satirical gold”.
 


Dame Edna introduces the Queen


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